My rule of late has been to steer clear of papal matters of late (except for matters of popes emeriti). However, gobsmacked was I in reading this from Pope Francis the other day:

We’re afraid of being close to Jesus because this gives us joy. And this is why there are so many ‘funeral’ (mournful) Christians, isn’t it? Those whose lives seem to be a perpetual funeral. They prefer sadness to joy. They move about better in the shadows, not in the light of joy, like those animals who only come out at night, not in the light of day, who can’t see anything. Like bats. And with a little sense of humour we can say that there are Christian bats who prefer the shadows to the light of the presence of the Lord.

Quite seriously one asks: what on earth is he talking about? Who are these people of whom he speaks? Bats?! I must be missing something, or lacking in proper formation. He’s lost me.

Pope Francis eschews bats and prefers doves.
Pope Francis eschews bats and prefers doves.


One can hardly be surprised if he elicits less than flattering commentary.


19 thoughts on “Mystified

  1. Hand on my heart when I say this, but there are many I know who live a very mournful life, finding complaints in the mundane, having little hope and finding little to rejoice in – these people are baptised, have been on pilgrimages to holy sites, they attend Church weekly, and the sacraments.. And yet, their lives portray something quite sad.. I understand fully what the Pope writes means, I’m sad to say!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I suppose bats can be cute–sans the fangs 🙂 I certainly hope his remarks were not directed towards his predecessor, as Benedict has expressed his desire to be hidden from sight. But I think there would have to be some serious turns to sharper conservatism for Francis to lose his momentum and rise in popularity as he seems to be what so many find as a breath of honest fresh air in Rome. He teases and tantalizes the more liberal minded with his comments concerning homosexuality and a reexamination of what exactly defines a family..hummm….last I checked, I thought that to be a dad, mom and kids… that order and of that mixing–not the hodge podge the world defines as family–mom, mom or dad, dad, or who needs a dad or mom….I digress.
    And on a side note—I was most alarmed reading yesterday about a talk given by the former archbishop of Canterbury -Rowan Williams about Great Britain no longer being considered a Christina nation–what on Earth is he getting at—I realize that both the US and Great Britain have huge populations of muslims, topped off by the non religious, atheistic citizen, but what exactly was he getting at Father?
    As always I look forward to your postings–
    Blessings and a hug—Julie


    1. Hi Julie! To be fair, Rowan Williams actually said that Britain is a “post-Christian” society, but qualified this by saying that this doesn’t mean that Britain is not a Christian country. It is Christian in culture and structure, but not in the wealth of its believers. And in that he is right: active believers in Christ in Britain are a minority now. He seems to be clarifying terms, which is a necessary stage in any reasoned debate.

      It had not even occurred to me that some might construe the bat remark as referring indirectly to Benedict XVI. I am sure he did not mean that, but how horrifying that it came to your mind.

      The Romans call +Francis Pope Chatterbox, and again we see why. I wish this pope would concentrate on curial restructuring and make less off-the-cuff remarks that are distinctly lacking in papal dignity. It is not without justification that the Pope Francis Little Book of Insults has been constructed.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh thank you Fr Hugh—you are correct it was “post-Christian”—which had / has me alarmed, thus turning that to meaning “no longer Christian” in this brain of mine.
        And yes I agree with you that having the Pope concentrate on the restructuring–something rather concrete would be grand!
        Thank you for the clarity—


  3. Last time I looked, neither mourning, nor penitence, nor devoutness was a sin. Sadness is an occasion for sympathy, not a condition to be mocked.

    Father, I have a distinct feeling that in these rather bitter personal attacks on characters who really don’t exist except in his imagination or memory, Papa Bergoglio is referring back to aspects of middle-class Argentina in the peronist postwar period. The rooms curtained against the summer sun, the whispered prayers, the family pressures, the overwhelming almost airless atmosphere of personal sin. Rather like scenes from a film.

    There is some autobiography here that we can only half-glimpse, some personal complex. We’ve already seen it in his strangely mocking remarks about those who offered him a spiritual bouquet, and his rather strange view of the Traditional form of the Rite as the ‘personal taste’ of a small clique – which of course it is not.
    Perhaps he needs to set up the ‘clericalist church’ bogeyman to defend the change of heart (and lurch towards the left) that he made (or felt forced to make) in the 1980s after the (according to his early friends) extremely conservative and orthodox provincial was demoted and exiled by the Jesuit order, and left to ‘reflect’ – ie to fall into line with the new revolutionary clerical politics reacting against the changing landscape of military dictatorship in Buenos Aires.
    Not a coincidence, surely, that his spokesman Cardinal Maradiaga recently (April 8th, at the meeting of Franciscan provincials in Florida) asserted that Francis “feels called to construct” a church “free from all mundane spirituality” and “free from the risk of being concerned about itself, of becoming middle-class, of closing in on self, of being a clerical church.” For like Maradiaga (though perhaps not as openly) has the Holy Father perhaps rather a complex about the middle classes and their desire for social and ideological order? a complex about not being one of them, feeling snubbed and attacked by them, needing to defeat them to survive…it’s a very Latin American thing.

    But if it has potential liturgical, theological and pastoral consequences for the Universal Church, then Houston, we definitely have a problem.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Like you, I am wondering if there is a straw man being set up, against whom he can tilt while avoiding other, more central and pressing issues. I had not seen that quote from Maradiaga, but if he represents in any way the mindset of the pope then it is disturbing. It comes across as anti-bourgeois and anti-clerical, and it is not the left-wing nature of these positions that is worrying, but their inherent secularism. “Construct a church”? Good grief.

      Maybe it is a very Latin American thing. But, as as has been said here before, he is no longer Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and the papal vision needs to expand accordingly. But for a man in his late 70s one must ask, can it expand?

      There is such a thing as the grace of God, and not least the grace of office. So we continue loyally to pray for him.



  4. I must admit that I have spent more than a little of my Christian walk as a bit of a ‘bat’. And, having spent time in a seminary I know what it means to be around ‘bats’, who seem only interested in speaking about what is wrong with the Church, or the idiotic things that Bishop or Fr such-and-such has done. It can become quite suffocating, and this among educated, devoted, good Catholic men, who, despite their priestly path did not much like speaking directly about Jesus Christ. Francis isn’t being judgemental in any negative sense, or pointing the finger at anyone. I think his warning is pertinent to all Catholics, and especially those who are committed to seeing the Church thrive. There is an authentic sorrow which the Church makes her own in the face of the manifold attacks on the dignity of Jesus, but there is nothing gloomy about this sorrow because it is pregnant with hope and in its realism it actually fosters a deep joy that ought to spill out into the visible world.


    1. You make a useful point: an authentic sorrow exists as well as this vaunted funereal spirit the pope is obsessed with. Any maybe many Catholics have this sorrow, or even this funereal spirit, because they see the Church being damaged yet more and more by divisions resurgent under this papacy, old liberal causes revived just as they were about to die. In which case some might be tempted to say to the Holy Father: if you want smilers, give them something to smile about!

      Pax semper!


  5. But Cameron, Francis *is* being judgemental, in a very negative sense, and he *is* personality labelling and pointing the finger at ‘[those] many mournful Christians whose lives seem to be a perpetual funeral” and who “prefer sadness to joy”. By using sarcasm and name-calling (‘Christian bats’) he is attacking those who are not more openly joyful at the presence of the Risen Christ.
    Rather like those boyars in Mussorgsky’s opera ‘Boris Godunov’ who attack the crowd with whips shouting ‘You must rejoice! rejoice!’


  6. Perhaps he’s been reading Tertullian:


    Mind you, Pope Francis’ constant haranguing of his own flock is becoming tiresome. Are we certain he is being properly transcribed/translated?
    Let’s hope he doesn’t start banging on about moles and owls next week.

    Yours still hoping for reasons to listen to + Francis,


    1. Salve David!

      But Tertullian is talking about the wicked. +Francis did not mention the wicked, but was taking aim at his favourite target, the (apparently) joyless Christian. Or are you implying that the pope sees such people as wicked? If so, we are indeed in a brave new church.

      The question about translation is a just one. Though has a pope ever before been so open to mistranslation? Perhaps the impromptu and idiomatic character of much of what he says, and his practice of putting the prepared text aside and, as it were, skiiing off piste, makes the translator’s job a tougher one than usual.

      As ever, let us pray for the pope.

      Happy Easter.


      1. If we cling to the admittedly highly improbable possibility that + Francis was drawing on images in Tertullian to talk about Christians, then he was indeed distorting the text.
        One problem with Pope Francis’ apparent agenda is that it leaves him wide open to personal attack. Although pictures of him beaming are aplenty, so are pictures of him scowling and looking as miserable as sin. Why he is so focused on what people look like is quite beyond me. Most of us have enough experience of life to know that facial expressions can be deceptive.
        Most of this joyless-Christian bashing appears to be knocking down the proverbial straw man. Are there not more pressing issues to be addressed?
        Mind you, I am starting to believe that Pope Francis’ naivety and lack of respect for protocol are allowing him to be highjacked by an undercurrent in the Church that is working out its own agenda.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I couldn’t but think of St Athanasius being formed for 20 years, struggling with demons bat-like in the tomb.
    One of the problems of the militant orders founded after Trent is that they have a rather narrow and prescriptive spirituality, one size fits all.

    Whenever the Holy Father describes a personality type I can’t help think of Saints who share that type. What would he make of today’s S Pius V, one of his holy and illustrious predecessors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suspect he does not think much on St Pius V, Father!

      You are spot on about post-Tridentine/counter-reformation spirituality. It is highly prescriptive and formulaic even, and comes very close at times to the (semi-?) Pelagianism the Pope abhors.

      There are post-reformation bishops with sound, realistic spirituality: St Francis de Sales and the Ven. Fulton Sheen come instantly to mind. Time to get them more attention!



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